In the media storm following President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey it’s important to shut out the noise and simplify what just happened.

Let’s be clear that an American president whose administration is under investigation for colluding with a traditionally hostile government to win the presidency has fired the head investigator in an obvious attempt to make it all go away.

It’s fine to make the historical comparisons with the late President Richard Nixon and call it Nixonian just as it’s normal to roll your eyes at the talking heads on Fox News when they claim that now, finally, we can get an investigation into—can you believe this?—former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails. We can continue to demand an independent prosecutor take over the investigation. But these points obfuscate and blur the terrible reality of what just immediately happened.

What just happened is not normal in a functioning democracy. What happened is an example of authoritarianism, an action of a despot mocking democratic structures and the underlying frame of democracy. The action, and make no mistake about this, is obviously an attempt to hide the Trump team’s alleged collusion with Russia in whatever form to win the presidency despite what the tweets and spin offer up. It’s ridiculously obvious. Any media outlet that doesn’t say this in some version should not be trusted.

What all this means once we cut through the chatter is that we’re now at a dangerous moment in our nation’s history in which democracy is failing if it already hasn’t failed. Can it be reversed or restored? I wish I could be more positive about it but it will be difficult given the great ideological divide among Americans and Trump’s autocratic self, an intuitive component of his personality.

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AHCA Is Inhumane, Immoral

How can you call it a “health care plan” when it would deny millions of people insurance and raise medical costs for everyone else?

The American Health Care Act, passed by Republicans in the House last week, is inhumane, an abomination, heartless and a death sentence for millions of Americans. There is no language too strong to describe the cruelty of what the GOP just did. If the AHCA becomes law, it will lead to massive death and pain-filled, excruciating lives. It’s as if the GOP has voted to commit an act of war against American citizens.

It allows states, for example, to opt out of a provision in the current law that prevents insurance companies from gouging people with preexisting conditions. That’s why the “opt out” provision is in the bill. It’s there for a reason. It’s obvious millions of people will get priced out of insurance altogether.

It also slashes funding for Medicaid, leaving 14 million people without any coverage, according to earlier estimates. Oklahoma, which never accepted the federal expansion of Medicaid under the current law, would be hit hard, and even more people would go without much needed health care.

Employers insurance costs are sure to rise under this non-plan, which will be passed on to employees.

Let’s face it: (1) People will either lose their health insurance altogether (2) or pay much more for less coverage while rich people get a tax cut under the AHCA. That’s the Republican plan in all its clarity. It’s not an over-simplification. It’s not an issue of choosing one’s doctor or “freedom” of choice when it comes to treatments.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a former Democratic presidential candidate, had this to say about the bill:

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Oklahoma Budget Problems Persist

So here we are once again in a state budget mess as time begins to wind down in the legislative session and, faced with a $878 million budget shortfall for next fiscal year, lawmakers and stakeholders have starting offering up proposals.

On one side of the proposals, a group of supporters are suggesting the state raise the oil and gas production tax back to its historic level and increase income taxes on the wealthiest Oklahomans. This could put a dent in the shortfall

On another side, there are proposals to tax more services and raise taxes on cigarettes and fuel, which would help the financial situation somewhat and could lead to teacher raises but would hardly solve the problem. Some people see these as regressive taxes, as well, because people with less income pay more of a percentage of their income for the essentials of life. One can argue whether cigarettes are “essential,” of course.

Then there’s The Oklahoman editorial board, which recently warned “ . . . if lawmakers raise taxes on oil and gas production and cause curtailment of drilling, they could quickly turn the current state recovery back into a recession.”

In the end, funding cuts seem to be a given once again this coming year.

So we’re stuck in a dire situation. Oklahoma, it has been noted repeatedly, has cut education the most on a percentage basis than any other state since 2008. Teachers haven’t had an across-the-board raise in years, and many are flocking to other states for better pay and support.

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